Originally published in the Albany Times Union - By Dylan Rossiter
The 17-year-old never made it to the school that morning. And when news of his death reached his classmates, they filled the asphalt with messages of mourning.
"He always put a smile on everyone's face and made me feel better after a bad race," said Annie Phillips, a junior who competed on the track team with Rowe. "He was good but not arrogant."
Rowe was a member of the 4-H Club and a three-sport athlete, playing soccer and running indoor and outdoor track for the high school.
"He always found a way to make something funny," junior Trever Rose said.
At about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, after a hold-in-place drill, school administrators told students that Rowe had died earlier that morning in a head-on car crash.
"It was really solemn," Phillips said. "We were allowed to talk, but nobody actually did. ... You could see the teachers crying before we were told and everyone knew it was real, even though so many of us were in disbelief."
Rowe was driving his truck along State Route 40, just north of Bracken Road, when he crashed head-on into a 2006 motor coach driven by 52-year-old Angel Martinez of Athens, troopers said.
Rowe was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said. His younger brother, Matt Rowe, suffered minor injuries, the school district said.
As the school day went on, students gathered around Rowe's parking spot and set up a makeshift memorial. Classmates wrote "RIP Bud" and "Rest easy bud, we love you" in chalk.
After Wednesday afternoon's heavy storms washed away their messages, Phillips and several classmates returned after dark to write new ones and tidy up a collection of candles and flowers.
"It shows how many people he impacted and just how close this community is," Rose said. "I hope it's helped his family a lot knowing that we all loved and respected Will."
Phillips said the outpouring of support mirrors the community's response to similar tragedies in the past.
"It shows how the values in the community haven't changed. ... We're still just as sensitive to these kinds of tragic accidents, no matter how many times it happens," she said. "And even though we aren't all friends here, everyone is supporting each other as if they were close friends."
A pair of soccer cleats were hung on the fence nearby, with "#13 will never be forgotten" written across one shoe and "God gained another angel. R.I.P #13 we will never forget you" scrawled on the other.